11. I thought I’d share one of my proudest moments as a bench tech. I suspect most of us who are interested in this type of work frequently encounter customers with lost data. Usually the issue is resolved with a simple undelete application, of which there are many. Sometimes we have to roll up our sleeves and image the disk and attempt to recover readable files. No matter the method, it’s the best feeling in the world to be able to call the customer and tell then you did recover their wedding pictures or important school work. The look on their faces when they come in to pick up the freshly burned DVD with their critical data makes you forget all the mouth breathers with their insect ridden e-machines (almost).
But then there’s that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you plug in the customer’s PC and hear the “click BANG” or “BOING whirllllll” of a failed hard disc while the BIOS reports no bootable drive. You have to look them in the eye and tell them you are already 99% sure the drive is dead and there is nothing you can do about it. You hand them the little card with the number to DriveSavers or similar professional data recovery and warn them it’s going to cost a lot of money. You are kind enough not to scold them about their lack of a backup that would only cause pain now. They already know.
Flash back to 2007. One morning I get to the shop to find a customer standing outside the front door with one of those ubiquitous claim-shell Dell PCs under an arm. The look in his eyes alone tells me all I really need to know about the situation. I tell him to come in and put the PC on the counter. We exchange niceties as I plug in the monitor and keyboard and turn it on.
We encounter the message he told me to expect, the PC can’t find a bootable drive. I open it up to make sure everything is plugged in and notice the drive is not spinning. Not good, but there could be an innocent answer. I pull the drive and try it out with a known good power supply, unfortunately with the same result.
I tell him “(Customer), it seems you have a failed hard drive. Since it won’t spin up I can’t really help you.” His exact words: “It doesn’t matter what it costs, please get my data back!” It turns out this guy is an office manager at a local veterinary practice. It must be a fairly big organization as they employ about 10 vets and about 40 other folks including cleaning staff, etc. This PC under his arm contains the entirety of their accounting everything. Payroll, tax stuff, accounts receivable, everything. He explains that they will go out of business if they can’t get the data on that drive.
I let him know that data recovery from a failed drive takes specialized skills and resources, neither of which we have in this mom n pop computer repair outfit. I give him the DriveSavers card and tell him to be prepared for a bill in the $1000’s if they are successful at all. Considering the importance of his data I thought it was a no-brainer to go this route. $2000 is nothing to a medical office likely billing out over a million dollars each year.
Well, I would not be writing this if the dude had any sense. He’s like: “$2000 for data recovery? And it might take weeks? I don’t know… Can’t you do it?” I tell him the truth: If I try to recover his data and fail there is a huge chance I’ll make it worse and less likely for a professional data recovery specialist to get it. He really needs to go to the specialist. Yet despite this, he continues to talk me into it telling me they can’t possibly go weeks without this PC. They need their data by tomorrow for tax reasons.
So I told him to give me his number and I’d do some research and get back to him. I call in my fellow nerds and we research (our Google-Fu was strong that day). We end up with a list of about 8 or so things to try to order them by risk. We even manage to find two of the same model drives from the junkyard downstairs to look at. By early afternoon I think we’ve learned what we can and I call the customer.
I tell him I’ll try it, but it’s foolish. He describes an office in pure chaos and says they are willing to take the risk. I tell him I’m going to charge $75 / hour for my time successful or not, to which he agrees. I also tell him to bring in any other Dells they purchased as the same time as the broken one as I want more drives from the same batch if possible. My boss prints out a unique addendum to our usual waiver all customers sign, something to protect us from the consequences of potentially (likely) destroying this data and the other PC drives as well.
Guy shows up 15 minutes later with sweat on his brow and three more clam-shell Dells. We’re lucky, the serial numbers on these drives are close enough to be the same batch as the broken one. These are a better match than the drives we already found. So we now have the one failed drive and three good ones. I go shopping to pick up items needed for the potential data recovery methods. I purchase some dry ice, a couple of torque bits and eyeglass screwdriver to fit, ziplock bags, and microfiber gloves from a photography shop. I try to make arrangements with a buddy who works in a chip fabrication plant to use their clean room if needed. That was impossible but he was able to get me a couple of those dust free bunny suits and face masks. Unfortunately they were pink. But this was war so I did not complain.
The first thing I try is swapping the PCB between a good drive and the failed one. The good drive works fine with the failed drive’s PCB, but the opposite is not true. Next we tried putting the drive in a USB enclosure and plastic bags and cooling the drive with the dry ice. After 1/2 hour we tried again, again without success. I then tried powering the drive and kinda spinning it back and forth hoping to jump start the motor (or something?). Needless to say that was not working. We needed to open the drive up and see what secrets might be inside. We took apart one of the three good drives to see if it was even possible to do a platter swap. I’ve taken apart many drives and knew the most difficult part would be not damaging the heads. Sometimes you have to remove the arms holding the heads to even get the platter out. But luck was on our side! The arm in these particular drives could be pushed down and would not get in the way when we pulled the platters! Even better they smoothly went back onto the platters without hanging when you carefully pushed it back.
I donned the bunny suit, much to the delight of the other nerds, and took the drive and tools into the bathroom. I set an audiobook playing and started scrubbing wall to ceiling with wet rags to collect all the dust I could. I taped over the air vent and along the door frame. Then I collected hot water into a trash can and added the dry ice. That much dry ice in that small room made quite a bit of fog which supposedly helps bring any dust out of the air. I don’t know if this actually works, but I was concerned about adding that much CO2 into a small sealed room. I made it a point to hold my breath if I was reaching down to the floor. After the fog was gone I noticed no ill effects and proceeded to phase 3.
The actual platter swap went without incident and hardly warrants description in this story. Just a few screws and aluminum spacer rings. I just tried to line up the two platters so they were aligned the same way relative to each other in the new case. Obviously I could not get nearly the same level of precision at the physical scale of the data on the drive, but I did the best I could.
We held our breath while we booted up the bench PC with a Linux data recovery live CD. It found the drive! I started to read an image from the drive, which seemed to work fine. I did a typical data recovery on the image and I FOUND FILES!!! I actually recovered that data! The customer was thrilled and didn’t blink an eye at the bill (something like $700) or the fact we destroyed the other drives in the other PCs. I even got a $100 tip for risking O2 deprivation and the ridicule of my peers. That evening we had pizza and Mountain Dew paid for out of the register. I kicked butt at Counter Strike. My wife called to say my Mother in Law was not able to visit after all. It was the perfect day.
12. This was about a year ago. I am police officer and I was driving my squad car along the freeway around early evening and spotted a van parked on the shoulder. So I pulled up behind it and threw on my rear emergency lights to check on the vehicle. As I was positioning my cruiser behind the van, I noted that the van was newer and in good condition and the window tint on the rear of the vehicle made it too dark to see inside.
I get out and start my approach and I can see the driver in the side view mirror. He’s a young Hispanic male dressed in business casual attire texting on a cell phone and it looks like he’s alone. Ok cool, he probably just pulled over to send a text. I’ll just make sure he isn’t having vehicle problems and thank him for not texting while driving. It’s getting dark out and we’re in a remote area of the freeway where nothing is around except trees. I make it up to the driver’s window and he is completely oblivious to my presence, so I knock on the window lightly to get his attention.
I’ve startled people before and usually they just jump a little. This guy goes into full freak-out mode. He lets out a blood curdling scream, throwing his cell phone into the passenger seat while clutching his chest and staring at me wide-eyed with fear. As soon as the uniform registers in his head he immediately begins laughing hysterically. He’s laughing so hard he can barely breathe and talking is out of the question. I’m standing there wondering what is wrong with this guy.
He rolls down the window and he’s able to calm down enough to say something. The first words he says to me are “I have a dead body in the back.” WTF. I blurt out “You have a dead body in your van?!” while I glance over his shoulder and I can now see a body bag that appears to be full in the rear of the van. He clarifies “Oh no, it’s okay. I’m a funeral home director.” I tell him that he should probably lead with that instead of the dead body statement in the future.
He then tells me why he freaked out so bad. He explains that he is transporting this body to another funeral home for the family of the deceased. The family happens to be superstitious and had been texting him non-stop asking if their loved one was going to come back as a spirit and haunt their house. Finally, he decided to pull over in a quiet spot and read the text messages. As he is parked on the side of the road alone with the dead guy, he starts to send a reply to reassure the family that he’d been in the business a long time and they had nothing to fear from the dead haunting the living and then I knock on the window. We both had a good chuckle about it.
13. I worked surveillance at a casino, 2 years of it. Fun job, honestly, and it paid well. One of the main things security does is what are called “chip runs.” Basically, a table needs more chips to cover buy ins/losses, etc. It happens probably 15-20 times a night (more from buy ins than losses, or they need to replenish low denomination chips).
Obviously, since it’s as good as cash moving across an open floor, security escorts, and surveillance maintains camera coverage the entire time, at least until they are in the pit, at which point we have enough cameras already there, we don’t need to actively monitor.
So on this fantastic night, one opportunistic member of the general public saw what was about $13,000 in chips in the hands of a smaller, older individual, escorted by one guard. Clearly seeking the element of surprise, this specimen decided to grab the box holding the chips, and make a run for the door.
Obviously, security calls it up as a rush situation, so guards are converging. What slipped their mind though, was that I, in surveillance had access to the 10,000lb test magnetic locks on the doors. I saw which door they were running to, and engaged those locks.
The film from that incident, which I am sadly not allowed to show anyone but my coworkers and casino management is one for the ages though.
You see this long haired, scriffy looking guy grab the chips and beeline for the door, security on his tail. He lowers his shoulder to hit the door and go through. His shoulder hits, and stops. Then his head hits, hair flies all over the place, and he crumples to the ground, totally unconscious. Chips went everywhere, and were collected and verified at the cashier’s cage before being sent out again.
Both police and ambulance showed up, and last I saw of the guy, he was getting handcuffed to the stretcher as he was wheeled out of our casino. We may or may not have made a slow motion video of him hitting the door. (We do have some fun up there).
14. Getting ready to close one night and the phone rings, so I answer it and it’s a customer wanting a delivery to the next town over. So I asked the boss if it was okay to take it and he said no, that it was pick up only, so I told the customer and she accepted it and hung up.
Not one minute later the phone rings again and it’s her husband, and he is fuming with anger that we will not deliver the pizza. He starts ranting on about how he is upper class (the estate he lives in has very expensive houses) and that I was lower class and was made to serve people like him. This went on for about a minute of him just saying how he was better than me and I the peasant should do my duties.
He then goes on to say about everything he has, Money, houses, cars, family etc. etc. and how I have nothing… after this I say to him “Yeah, I may be on a low income and not have all you do, but you know what I have that you don’t ?”. He replies with “No, what?” and I just say “Pizza” and hung up.
15. It’s a long story, but our manager wrote, me, my friend, and literally everyone else who had worked that day up because she thought someone stole $20 from her. My friend and I decided to quit (because I’m not going to sign a write-up when I did nothing wrong and she’s too stupid to lock her stuff up). I took the paper, simply wrote “I quit” and handed it back to her. I look at my friend and he looks right at her, just staring at her. Then he slowly crumples up the write-up, puts it in his mouth, and starts chewing, just staring at her. He then turns around, walks to his car, and drives away, still the whole time with the paper in his mouth. It was glorious.
16. I am school nurse. A guy in one of my High School chem classes tried sneaking some Sodium, if I remember right, out of the classroom. He unfortunately decided he would hide it in a paper towel in his crotch. He eventually sweated enough to activate it and ended up burning his crotch pretty badly. School had to call an ambulance.
17. It’s not uncommon as a teacher to have students who are a bit behind the curve in certain aspects, but 99.99999% of the time they are keen on something. They might not understand how to identify a noun or what theme is, but they somehow know how to make a mean plate of nachos. You learn pretty quick to not judge fish for their tree climbing ability.
I thought this was the rule when I was teaching until I met Kevin. Kevin isn’t his real name, but it doesn’t matter because he can’t spell it anyway. Kevin was a student of mine during my last year of teaching. He came to my classroom with very little to show for his academic past. He had moved a few times and thus was missing a lot of typical test scores that we use to try and ballpark their ability (don’t worry, it was a ballpark. We didn’t make major decisions until we actually had a chance to talk and work with a student for a bit.) I thought “That’s fine. I’ll just do some one-on-one with Kevin and see what’s up” One on One with Kevin was like conversing with someone who’d forgotten everything in a freak, if not impossible, amnesia incident. There was no evidence that he had learned anything past the 2nd grade and now he was in 9th grade. Flabbergasted, I figured we needed to get more serious with this. If he was going to be in my class, I needed to know why and how.
I decided to meet with him, his guidance counselor, his parents, and another teacher to see what was really going on. This is where it all became clear. It was by some incredible fluke that his family hadn’t been wiped off the face of the Earth years ago. Odds are his entire heritage was based on blind luck and some type of sick divine intervention that saves his family every time a threat presents itself. Kevin was the genetic pinnacle of this null achievement. Even my instructional lead, a woman who could find a redeeming trait in a Balrog, failed to see any reason this kid or his family should be alive today.
So here’s a list of events that made it abundantly clear that god exists and he’s laughing uncontrollably:
· Kevin frequently forgot when/where class was. On more than one occasion, I had to retrieve him from other classrooms.
· Kevin ate an entire 24 pack of crayons, puked, and then did it again the next day. This is 9th grade. I have no idea where he got crayons.
· Kevin’s dad wrote tuition checks and mailed them to me, his English teacher. This was a public school. When I gave it back to Kevin, voided, to give to his dad with a brief note explaining that this is a public school, Kevin got in trouble for trying to spend it at 711 after school.
· Kevin was removed from the culinary arts program after leaving a cutting board on the gas stove and starting a fire… twice
· Kevin threw his lunch at the School Resource Officer and tried to run away. He ran into a door and insisted it wasn’t him.
· Kevin stole my phone during class. I called it. It rang. He denied that it was ringing. (Not that it wasn’t his, not that he did it… no, he denied that the phone was actually ringing). He tried it three times before the end of the year.
· Kevin called the basketball coach a “Motherfu*king b***h” during gym. Basketball tryouts were that afternoon. Kevin tried out. It didn’t go well.
· Kevin’s mom could never remember which school he went to. She missed several meetings because she drove to other schools (none of which he ever went to).
· Kevin tazed himself in the neck before a football game.
· Kevin kept a bottle of orange Kool-Aid in his backpack for about 4 months. He thought it would turn into alcohol. He drank it during homeroom and threw up.
· Kevin said the N-word a lot. Kevin was white. The high school was 84% black. Kevin got beat up a lot.
· Kevin stole another student’s iPhone and tried to sell it back to them.
· Kevin didn’t understand that his grade was dependent on tests, quizzes, homework, classwork, and participation. Kevin finished his first semester with a 3% average. He tried to bribe me with $11.
· Kevin spit on a girl and said “You should get out of those wet clothes.” The girl was the Spanish Student Teacher.
· Kevin didn’t know dogs and cats were different animals.
· Kevin tried to download p*rn onto a computer in the library, at the circulation desk, while he was logged on.
· Kevin asked a girl to prom (he was in 9th grade and freshmen don’t go to prom) by asking for her phone number and then texting her his address.
· Kevin got gum in his hair, constantly.
· Kevin regularly tried to cheat on assignments by knocking the pile over, grabbing one before I had picked them all up and then writing it name on it wherever there was room.
· Kevin had several allergies, but neither his parents nor he could remember what they were. They were very concerned that “the holiday party” (it’s high school, we don’t have those) would have peanuts. When they finally got a doctor’s note, he was allergic to amoxicillin.
· Kevin and his parents took a trip to Nassau (how did they even get airline tickets?) and forgot all their luggage at home. I didn’t believe him when he told me until I talked to him mom, who told me first thing when I saw her at the bi-weekly meeting.
· Kevin’s grandfather apparently died in a chainsaw accident. I can only assume God was looking the other way that day.
18. I was doing my civil services in a hospital 14 years ago (for the uninitiated, that was a German thing – as a guy turning 18 / finishing school, it’s 9 months in the army or 10 months civil services until they cancelled the whole deal a few years ago).
Anyway, one day a patient died during my shift, and I accompanied the nurse and doctor to the room to perform CPR. The patient had had osteoporosis (extremely weak bones), and when the doc first pushed her chest down, it literally shattered. He kept going just for the protocol, but there was nothing left to save. So while the doc was pumping, he looked me deep in the eyes and told me “if you ever want to re-live this moment, jump with your bare feet first onto a bag of potato chips. It’s exactly the same sound & feel.” I totally lost it.
19. Back in my Army days we were in the process of doing an 18 mile ruck march. It’s pretty hot out. All of a sudden one of my squad members collapses to the ground.
The medics rush to him and start sticking an IV in his arm while asking him questions. “Do you know where you are? Do you know what month it is? Do you know what day of the week it is?”
He looks up confused, “Uhh… waffles?”
“No, you fu*king retard! Let’s get him out of here.”
Everyone lost it and started laughing.
20. I’m in the medical field, so I have heard firsthand of some bizarre causes of death:
· Bee sting to the inside of the lung. A woman accidentally inhaled a bee and it stung her. Apparently she was allergic. Took a week to figure it out.
· Cause of death was gunshot to the chest, and ruled a homicide… except he had been shot 3 decades earlier. A small piece of shrapnel from the bullet wasn’t removed when he was shot, but he was completely fine for 30 years. Then it found its way into his circulatory system close to his heart, made its way into the man’s right ventricle and caused a heart attack. The man who had shot him was sent to prison for a few years and released, but was subsequently arrested and charged with murder.
· A man with a very weird fetish put a LIVE EEL up his rectum, and it tore a hole through his large intestine. He died.